He thought he got away with it.
When the driver of an Infiniti SUV struck a Chicago bicyclist earlier this year, fracturing his collar bone, he chose to flee. What he did not count on was the bicyclist, a 35 year old Chicago pastry chef, having the wherewithal to snap a photo of his license plate. This enabled the police to quickly track down the driver and cite him for failing to exercise due care to avoid hitting a bicyclist. The cyclist’s quick thinking also helped us as his attorneys secure for him a sizable settlement.
The collision occurred at around 7 p.m. on February 12, 2015 on Chicago’s northwest side. The bicyclist was riding home from work southbound near 5562 North Lincoln Avenue. The weather was cold, but dry. Though the cyclist did not have a headlight on his bike, his helmet had reflective properties and the area was very well lit. He was riding on the right side of the road. When he passed in front of a curb cut for the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store, the driver of a 1999 Infiniti QX4, northbound on Lincoln, suddenly made a left turn into the lot. When he did he smashed into the bicyclist, “t-boning” him. The driver, who had numerous past moving violations, did not help the badly injured cyclist. When it became clear that he was about to take off, the cyclist pulled out his smartphone and snapped a photo of the vehicle’s license plate. With the plate number, Chicago police officers who arrived at the scene went to work locating the driver. The bicyclist was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital. He was diagnosed with a right clavicle fracture.
The bicyclist eventually hired our law firm to represent him against the driver. After several months of work we were able to secure a settlement with the driver’s insurer, GEICO, 4 1/2 times greater than his medical bills.
There are a few interesting points here. Firstly, the importance of riding with a device of some kind that can take pictures, a smartphone, camera or GoPro type device, and using it if something bad happens, cannot be overstated. Had our client not photographed the vehicle’s plate the driver likely would have faced no repercussions for his conduct. Though there are many video cameras positioned throughout Chicago, most do not reproduce images of sufficient quality to enable the police or us to make out a plate number. Secondly, if the driver flees and is caught the repercussions will be far greater. Had the driver stuck around we still would have resolved the case successfully, but GEICO undoubtedly understood that they had to pay more because the driver left the scene. Thirdly, though all bicyclists are required by Illinois law to ride with at least a front-facing headlight at night, not having one does not necessarily preclude recovery. The crash occurred in a very well lite area and the bicyclist wore a helmet with reflective properties. Despite his lack of a headlight, the driver should have seen him.